Every so often you need a weekend of doing nothing. You need to eat cookies and drink cold lemonade for hours in the backyard with your book (in my case “The Other Boleyn Girl,” continuing my mild Tudors obsession), getting a little bit of a suntan and coaxing the cat to come play (he is more of the cat who walks by himself type, I’m afraid). I did manage a four mile run in Saturday’s quiet late afternoon heat, and baked some cookies and roasted a bunch of asparagus, but on the whole it was a very warm, very lazy, very needed couple of days.
[Forget-me-nots, April 2008.]
When I woke up yesterday morning — early, for me, at 6a — for the drive back to the city, through the window I’d left open came that early morning, very cool breeze which still holds the night’s secrets and tastes of all the freshness of the coming day. Peacocks sent out their calls from somewhere up the street, and in those few moments between sleep and true wakefulness, I drifted and imagined myself not in Sebastopol, but possibly in another hemisphere.
[Spring lavender, Sebastopol.]
I’ve been thinking a lot about Africa lately — for many reasons, some obvious and some not — but in truth it’s often on my mind. Last year, after reading Lynn Freed’s Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home, I wrote a short story about a girl who was fascinated with Africa, and who planned to go there to live and work just as soon as she was able (it wasn’t written very well, but it was plain that girl was me); there was a description in Freed’s book of the Victoria Falls that made me want to pack my bags immediately and take off on the first plane on which I could get a seat.
Africa is a place I’m not sure I’ll ever get to — there is that whole taking anti-malaria drugs thing, and the shots you have to get, and and and, though I know this really is just my trepidation asserting myself. My brother spent a summer in Malawi working on an AIDS research project years ago (and long before the country made the news); a friend of mine spent two years in Burkina Faso in the Peace Corps; my dad has gone at least several times; when I saw an old friend earlier this month he told me I should go to Capetown, that it was ‘a Nicole place,’ so I know it’s not as imposing as it seems. And while I’m longing to see the desert wide and empty stretching before me, or to take one of the buses that jolt their way across the dirt roads, or to get lost in a rain forest, I wonder what I might eat there, given that there is so little already, and I am a vegetarian who can’t eat meat … so for the time being, that will be excuse enough.
Still, when I read Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories” when I was young, the continent burrowed its way into my consciousness — and heart — and it became high on my list of places I’d like to travel to. At the top are Australia, New Zealand, and then parts of Africa, though to make the trek to any of these would take so long I would want at least a month there, and for the time being it’s not possible. Other spots include Seattle and Vancouver — these at least are at least accessible by car from San Francisco, which might save a bit of money (though looking at gas prices lately I’m not so sure) — and back to Europe, especially France and Italy. And Scotland. Oh, and Ireland, too, while I’m at it. Though it may take awhile, I know I’ll get to all these places someday (or at least I’ll make a good try).
[Redwood in the backyard, April 2008.]
In the meantime, there is Northern California and its unexpectedly warm days. I will never miss the humidity of the East Coast, but I do miss, sometimes, those mornings before the true heat of summer descends: with a light breeze, and sunny and warm through and through. This weekend here was reminiscent of that, and I went barefoot for nearly all of it. Sunday afternoon, I went to an old friend’s house perched above a little valley a ways back from town, and the trees were bursting with new greenery even as the hills we could see out their living room window were starting to brown a bit (already). We drank sparkling mineral water and complained about the hot weather, but I (perhaps not-so) secretly loved it. The only thing I could wish for here would be more weekends like that — and more time to enjoy them.
Another lovely thing about this weekend was the lack of cooking on my part; yes, I did make a batch of cookies, and I did throw some asparagus in the oven for 15 minutes, but on the whole I was thoroughly spoiled. There was a Friday night dinner of spinach and mushroom quiche, with a big salad, a Saturday lunch of more of the same, and a dinner of pizza and pesto from the local pizza joint. Sunday morning breakfast consisted of home made french toast and strawberries, and lots of coffee and reading the paper, and for dinner, an interesting and delicious pasta dish with capers, lemon zest, raisins, and browned butter. There was a bit of wine, and ice cream, too.
[Sunday dinner, April 2008.]
Also, I’ve gotten a new camera and it’s wonderful. This weekend I stalked the cat and took pictures of my mother’s flowers and held up dinner while I arranged the pasta just so. It’s so much fun, and may actually trump the Tudors for awhile in terms of fascination (we’ll see).
As an attempt to bridge the gap, I offer a cookie recipe perfect for vegans and their dairy-consuming friends just the same; these ginger snaps are so good it’s truly impossible to have only one (luckily the recipe makes a big pile). My first batch I cooked just a tad too long so they were extra crunchy, but on the second round I made sure not to (ahem) wander off while they were in the oven, and the result was a crisp, chewy cookie snapping with ginger. A dusting of coarse sugar on the top (or perhaps even salt? I’ll have to try that the next time) makes them slip down ever so smoothly.
Perhaps this weekend, I’ll make some more — especially if the fog rolls in and these summery days are just a sighed-over memory.
[Ginger snaps for Dad, April 2008.]
Vegan gingersnaps, adapted from The Post Punk Kitchen
4 Tablespoons coarse sugar (turbinado or demerrera or “sanding” sugar)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup soy milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift the dry ingredient (except the sugar) into a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine wet ingredients, including sugar, and whisk or beat on medium until blended. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. The dough will be a bit sticky and you may need to dip your hands in water to work with it.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out cookies and flatten out gently with a fork (the thinner the cookie the crisper it will be). Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the cookies and bake about 10 minutes on a greased cookie sheet.